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Alchemists - Arcane Cultists with a Thirst for Revenge

George Kelion, Square Enix

As Kain’s empire thrived, Humanity’s shared knowledge of technologies such as alchemy or forging weapons withered away. Experts died before being able to pass on their knowledge, while libraries and universities were sacked or burned to the ground. The legacy of pioneers such as Anacrothe, Bane and DeJoule was lost, reduced to mere legends of how Humans had once mastered the elemental powers of the land.

By the time Kain’s empire had reached its height, the ruling Vampires had begun to experiment in new fields. The Zephonim in particular, eager to compete in raw power with the elder Clans, attempted to artificially shape and force their metamorphoses through ritual self-torture, alchemical engineering and twisted breeding programs.

As with all aspects of life in Kain’s empire, the Lieutenants pushed their Clans to conduct ever more dangerous tests as they jostled for attention and prestige. Rival groups of Vampire alchemists vied to produce new compounds and concoctions to act both as weapons and restoratives. Some lines of research were focused on the individual – methods of improving the flow or flavor of Human blood, or keeping it fresh outside the living body – while others were on the massive scale of manipulating the volcanic furnaces, which were then used to block out the sun itself.

Either by accident or sabotage, one group of alchemists from Clan Melchahim committed a grave error, inadvertently poisoning a batch of prime Human breeding stock in an effort to better preserve their fragile undead skins. Their Lieutenant-patriarch, Melchiah, had been raised last and therefore received the poorest portion of Kain's dark gift. Despite his immortality, Melchiah’s soul could not sustain the flesh, an affliction passed on to his Vampire offspring who had already begun to show some signs of the underlying decay that would come to blight them in the far future. Rather than waiting to suffer the wrath of their lord, the errant alchemists fled to the far desert canyons of the southern hinterlands.

Wilfully isolated in these labyrinthine badlands, the exiles were unaware of the civil war that came to consume their kind. Instead, after setting up a new laboratory in secret, they desperately strove to make some new and potent discovery with which to buy their way back into favour. This came in the form of naphtha; liquid fire that was inert when stored but when excited could be used as a devastating weapon, especially against their Vampire brethren. One Vampire, Laderic, made the final breakthrough and kept the secret of its manufacture to himself, intending to betray his fellows and blame them for their past misadventures. His invention, however, would prove to be the catalyst of his own demise.

The Vampire exiles required slaves as test subjects for their grisly experiments, seizing any Human who strayed too far from the safety of their nomadic caravans. All the men they captured were bled dry once the Vampire alchemists had no more use for them or their seed, but the women remained incarcerated – Humans raised in captivity, after all, were more docile and less troublesome. One such slave was Elustra, a local woman kidnapped by Laderic and held in captivity for over two decades, who quickly came to realize that feigning madness gave her the best chance of survival.

Underestimating his captive’s capacity for rational thought, Laderic left vials of naphtha close enough to her cage for Elustra to burn her way out. In an act of almost suicidal desperation, Elustra managed to murder her captor with his own concoction, but not before herself suffering horrific burns in the process. Blinded by pain and driven by rage, she made her way through the halls and alcoves of the laboratory, slaughtering not just her Vampire captors, but every living being in the compound – all equally defenseless against this unknown liquid fire.

Barely conscious and close to death, Elustra staggered out into the surrounding desert wastes, only to be found by a group of wandering nomads, drawn to the area by the plumes of smoke emanating from the laboratory. While they tended to her dreadful wounds, the nomads questioned Elustra about the fate that had befallen her. When no coherent answer came, they suggested whether she had slain her Vampire abductors in revenge for the murder of the other hostages imprisoned within the laboratory. Elustra did not disagree.

Unaware of the truth, a sisterhood formed to venerate Elustra in remembrance of the women tortured for decades by the Vampire alchemists… ignorant of the fact that they had been massacred by Elustra herself. Elustra spent the following months recovering from her ordeal with a grim determination. She donned a mask to cover her disfigured face and, as much in penance as in reverence, she dedicated her life and those of her followers to Anacrothe - the last Human Guardian known to have mastered the art of alchemy before all knowledge fell into Vampire hands.

The first task of the newly inaugurated Red Sisters of Anacrothe was to ransack the abandoned laboratory of its contents before razing it to the ground. Even this small accomplishment was enough to swell their ranks. Now armed with weapons and knowledge capable of exterminating the Vampire threat, Elustra decided the best form of revenge would be to use the Vampire’s stolen knowledge against them.

Journeying back to the heartlands, the Red Sisters brought with them exotic supplies and materials previously unseen in other climates. Arriving in Freeport only to discover it had already been taken by Human forces, the Red Sisters joined forces with the Watchers and the Ironguard. They set up chapter houses in nearby Meridian, once a prime seat of Human knowledge and long abandoned by Kain’s Lieutenants as they focused their attention on securing their own territories. Now referred to as Alchemists by the other Human forces, the Red Sisters quickly put their new weapons of war into mass production. It was not long, however, before this industrial activity attracted the attention of the reunited Vampire Clans.

Now the Alchemists wage war with a single-minded purpose – the immolation of their former captors down to the last Vampire in Nosgoth.